Designed by Andy Brown, Sean McCaughey and Phil Cairns of Beserker Games
Art by Simon Bisley
Where Can I get This? Salty Dogs is seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter here
Review by Phil Welch
The Game: Salty Dogs is a pirate-themed card game for all the family in which each player runs a crew of motley pirates, with the aim to be the last crew on the seas.
Gameplay: In Salty Dogs, each player has a playmat representing their ship and crew. To set up, each player is dealt five crew cards which are placed in the pirate, first mate and captain positions on the playmat. The remaining crew cards are shuffled with action cards to form a draw pile in the centre of the table. Five cards from the draw pile are then dealt face down to each player as a starting hand.
Once the cards are dealt, play begins with each player acting in turn. A turn consists of the active player drawing a card and playing either an attack, crew, illness or cure card from their hand. Attack cards can be used to remove pirates from an enemy’s crew, block empty enemy crew slots, steal cards from an enemy. Crew cards can be used to replace empty positions in your crew.
Illness cards can be used to take enemy crew cards out of play without releasing a crew slot. Cure cards can be used to remove an illness from a member of your crew.
Each player takes turns to draw a card and play a card, adding and removing pirates from their own and enemy crews. Cards played against a player affect the leftmost crew card in the player’s crew. Each crew consists of three pirates, one first mate and one captain.
The first mate is immune to mutiny attack cards, the captain immune to mutiny attack cards and all illness cards. This adds an element of strategy to the game, as, to beat your opponents, you need to save cards for the first mate and captain of each player which they are not immune to.
Play continues in turn as players crews are eliminated, until only one crew is left standing. The player with the last populated crew is the winner.
Rules: The rules that come with the game are short and simple, explaining the set up and game play in a few short paragraphs. The second half of the rules explains the different types of cards and their effects. However, the rules for each card are shown on the card itself – so reading this part of the rules is optional and can be used for reference as needed.
Review: The playmat and cards are beautiful and share common art and design which brings to life the rough pirate theme of the game in a family friendly way. The artwork is not only great visually – it’s also funny, complementing the light-hearted nature of the game itself. The full art playmat makes setup easy, so even those who hadn’t read the short rules would likely work out where everything goes. Similar to the playmat, the cards are self explanatory, with clear instructions making the game easy to pick up and play in minutes.
The game is fast paced, and while I initially thought the last man standing goal would involve the first player eliminated to be waiting at length for the game to end, this didn’t happen in our games. It usually took only one or two more quick rounds for there to be a clear winner.
Playing defence cards out of turn does reduce your hand size by a card, because you don’t draw to replace it. This reduces the options you have on your turn, which could be frustrating in a longer game. However, the game is light-hearted and the short time it takes to play each game means this doesn’t become an issue.
The base game includes pirates with additional immunities similar to the captain and the first mate. This addition makes playing attacks and illnesses more strategic and increases the replay value of the game. While there are only a limited number of these in the base game and first expansion, I hope to see more of these in future expansions.
The first expansion, Mythical Beasts and the Poopie Hand, which is being made available at the same time as the base game, contains more of all types of cards with a common theme of poop. This hilarious set of cards appears to be aimed at adults and possibly older children and is wonderfully immature.
The cards and effects in this deck are also slightly more complex than in the base game, providing more variety for experienced or older players.
In Short: Salty Dogs is an easy to pick up, fast-paced game full of pirate fun and great artwork which will be entertaining for both children and adults alike.
Phil Welch is co-organiser of the 2019 Lakes International Comic Art Festival Dungeon, alongside Katie White. For the Festival weekend the Studio Theatre in Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre will be transformed into a Fantasy RPG room, offering RPG taster sessions, which will be running throughout both Saturday and Sunday for people who would like to give it a go.
A special short fantasy RPG campaign is being produced specially for the event, written by Andy Diggle, who will be in the room at 1.00pm on Saturday 12th October and 12 noon on Sunday 13th October, signing and selling the campaign, with all proceeds going to partner charity OCD Action